Former Prime Minister of the UK and leader of the Conservative Party, Elizabeth Truss, addressed the first day of The Free Iran World Summit on July 1, 2023.
Liz Truss: It’s Time to Be Tougher on Iran’s Regime
The full text of former Prime Minister of the UK, Liz Trusss’s remarks, is as follows:
Good afternoon and It’s fantastic to be here at the Free Iran World Summit, talking about this vital issue at this vital time because I believe that we are at an international crossroads on the future of democracy and freedom. I don’t think that freedom and democracy have been under greater threat for decades and it’s vital that we keep the flame of freedom alive.
And I congratulate Mrs. Rajavi for what she has done to promote freedom and democracy in Iran. We are facing a huge threat from rising authoritarian regimes across the world. We’ve seen President Xi increasingly threatening towards its neighbors in the Asian Pacific. We’ve seen Vladimir Putin wantonly invade Ukraine. And we’ve seen the Iranian regime crackdown on dissent and protestations against their controls.
The reality is these regimes are emboldened because the free world hasn’t done enough. After the Cold War, we were complacent. We allowed people to think that the fight for freedom was finished. That we had dealt with USSR, that we were now able to work with an authoritarian regime. We erroneously believed that as countries got richer, that they would become freer and more democratic.
But sadly, that wasn’t true. And we’ve seen China now with the same or overtaking the US in terms of purchasing power parity becoming increasingly totalitarian. And we’ve seen Russia and Iran, both countries with huge natural resources, crack down on their internal and external opponents. We’ve seen the free media being eradicated, we’ve seen freedom of speech decimated and we also have seen people crackdowns and internal repression taking place.
And these actions haven’t just been internal. They have been affecting neighboring countries by using terrorist activities and other means that undermine freedom and democracy in the region as well as destabilizing countries that are on the right path.
The fact that we now live in a world where fewer of our citizens are in a democracy than they were thirty years ago. And where many young people unfortunately even in countries like the United Kingdom are beginning to question democracy itself.
And what we’re seeing is countries like China, Russia, and Iran working together to subvert the sanctions we put in place, to subvert the work we’re doing to promote freedom and democracy. So, we’ve seen Iran supplying drones to Russia for their appalling war with Ukraine. We’ve seen China work to undermine the sanctions that [were imposed] on Iran and on Russia. And what the lesson we need to take from that is that countries that believe and people that believe in freedom and democracy need to work together and we need to double down on our efforts.
And the people here today understand that better than anyone because you faced the brutality of the Iranian regime. You know what it feels like to be persecuted by the IRGC. You know what it’s like not to be able to speak freely. You know what it’s like not to be able to have access to free media and understand what is going on in the world. You know what it’s like when your basic rights, your basic humanity are taken away from you. And that is ultimately what we are all fighting for. We are all fighting for the ability of people to make decisions about their own lives. And we know that ultimately people are much better placed than authoritarian states.
And that’s why I will never give up hope for a free, democratic Iran. And I believe that ultimately freedom and democracy will prevail in Iran because that is ultimately what people want. Because when people are free to choose, they choose freedom.
But the fact is we in the free world have not done enough. Our governments have not done enough to stand up to these authoritarian regimes. There has been too much of appeasement. There has been too much wishful thinking. There has been too much hope that things will change when it was evident that we are not going to change and have not changed.
So we need to be clear that were are not going to tolerate this tyranny. We will not treat these countries as part of the global system. They won’t have access in the same way they have to our trade, to our opportunities, to our systems they have had in the past. We have to be very clear about that.
And there are three things we should be specifically doing with respect to Iran to make that very clear to the regime.
First of all, Iran must not get nuclear weapons. That is absolutely vital and they have been kicking the can down the road claiming that they are interested in some kind of settlement. Meanwhile, they have been developing those nuclear weapons. We cannot allow them to play the time. We must be tougher. That should include looking after sanctions and new ways of putting pressure on the regime. Because we know if the Iranian regime had its hands on nuclear weapons.
The second thing is we must back the brave women of Iran. It’s hugely inspiring to see women under threat for their lives, and their futures, fighting for freedom, prepared to demonstrate against the appalling regime and the human rights abuses they’re subject to. And we must back them in that fight and do what we can to support their equality as women. Because you can’t have a free society when half of the population is under huge restrictions. You can’t have a successful country where women aren’t in control of their own lives. So, we must back the women of Iran.
And we must also work together as free democracies to stop the use of state hostage-taking and stop unfair detention taking place. I have seen how diplomacy has been subverted by the use of hostage-taking to try and get other political ends. And it’s important that we are not played against each other as Western countries but we work together to stop this appalling practice.
And we have a clear strategy to make sure that we are not emboldening the regime, that we are not encouraging the regime, and that we are not appeasing the regime.
It’s very important that this conference is going ahead. It’s very important that we’re able to talk together. That we’re able to offer people hope for the future. Because in many ways, times look dark at the moment. We know that democracy is under threat around the world. We know that dictators have been emboldened by actions that we haven’t taken in the past. But what that means is that now is the time to take action. Now is the time to turn our backs on the accommodation and appeasement policy over the past few decades and instead, be much tougher, be much clearer, and be much more positive about the future of Iran, on the future of other countries.
I’m very encouraged by what I have heard today, and by the level of international support for this movement, and I will you all the best in the fight that you are having to get freedom and democracy to Iran. Thank you very much for having me today. Thank you.